Ali Rossi (they/them) is the Director of Olympia. Born and raised in New York City, Rossi studied Art History & Painting at Mount Holyoke College, and has since developed a like-minded, interdisciplinary community of artists, writers, and curators, under the name of Olympia. Olympia opened its doors as a permanent gallery space in November of 2020. Disrupting commercial gallery norms, and carving out a space for conversation, collaboration, and risk remains at the forefront of all of their activities.
Hi Ali! Thank you for chatting with us, we are so pumped. To get us started, tell us more about your upbringing: Where are you from and what’s the arts community like there?
I am from New York City, where I currently live and work. Formulating connection happens pretty organically here; through work, friendship, and just existing in such a creative environment, it’s hard not to find yourself engrossed in an artistically-engaged community. I am appreciative that this community consists of not just painters or studio art practitioners, but also designers, botanists, runners, musicians, etc.
What was your first job? What was the most important thing that you learned from this experience?
I refereed soccer games growing up – Through this experience, I learned to always be on time, attentive to detail, and know how and when to stick to my opinion (especially when dealing with angry dads, a demographic that there is no shortage of). Having grown up playing competitive soccer plays a huge role in my professional life – flexibility, collaboration, and endless dialogue are innate to the game.
You are the founder and director of OLYMPIA, a New York-based gallery “dedicated to dismantling the cis-male-centric art canon.” Tell us more about OLYMPIA and how it came to be!
I started Olympia while I was studying at Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts. The project originated as a nomadic curatorial platform. Over the years, the spiderweb grew, and we eventually found a permanent home at 41 Orchard St. The terminology around our framework has evolved over the years, but who we serve/what we do has remained pretty linear all along.
We recently visited OLYMPIA for the exceptional exhibition Warm, Dark and Roaring, a solo exhibition by Yura Adams. We were so impressed! How do you choose the artists you work with?
We choose each other.
From a Director’s perspective, do you have advice for artists who want to show in galleries? Advice for those wanting to work in galleries?
Make the interactions less transactional – of course showing up to gallery events is essential, but I would emphasize striking up conversations that don’t exclusively involve business. It’s like dating – I would assume most of the time
OLYMPIA presented work by artist Lee Maxey at this year’s NADA Miami Art Fair. What does a fair day look like for OLYMPIA?
I was very lucky to have both Chantal Lee (Olympia’s Co-Director) and Lee Maxey (the artist) present during NADA Miami this year. Being at fairs requires quite a bit of openness – you simply don’t know who you are going to meet, or what the result of those conversations will be.
What does your daily routine look like, and what’s something you hope you can do more of in the coming year?
I sit in the bath for about 30 minutes every morning, which is where I send out my first round of emails. Afterwards I watch New York One to catch up on niche local news, and then hit the train. I am hoping to bike to work more in 2023 – having forced time away from a cell phone is important; so is tricking yourself into exercising.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
It depends on who is at the top. I am grateful though that there are many spaces dedicated to challenging the status quo.
Is there anything we can look forward to for OLYMPIA in the coming months or year?
I am looking forward to everything we have lined up! We are also participating in our first international art fairs in 2023.
Thank you so much Ali for participating in Frank Talks, it has been our pleasure! To finish off, we’re curious: If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?
Hans Hoffman, Summer Wheat, Lee Maxey ;), Deana Lawson, Jiha Moon.